Artwork: Tess Emily Rodriguez
She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to… Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all.
So I have no idea what's wrong with me.
I have a girlfriend, and we have a child together.
I do truly love her and my son with all my heart, but I also feel like it’s not enough.
I have had a seriously messed up past — an abusive household and abandonment issues, to say the least. However, my true issues lie in my sexual desires.
I am insatiable, I am a creature of passion and desire, and my girlfriend is, well, not. I can never get it out of my mind.
Am I a sex addict? Am I polyamorous?
Why can’t I be happy with someone who cares about me even if the sex isn’t what I’d like? Or is this the relationship dynamic?
I’m so lost and confused. She doesn’t deserve to be hurt. But does that mean I should just repress or swallow what I want? Any advice is appreciated.
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It’s not uncommon in longterm relationships for one partner to have a higher sex drive than the other. And there are absolutely ways to address this that can improve your relationship, beyond the bedroom. I don’t think you need to blow up your relationship to be happy here, nor do I think you need to repress your needs. We’ll get to that in a bit. However, I think it’s also essential to address one aspect of this that you brought up.
In your email, you questioned if you might be a sex addict.
Sexually compulsive behavior is prevalent among people who have had a history of abuse or abandonment.
I am speaking from personal experience on this. Research has linked all sorts of compulsive and addictive behaviors to trauma. And abuse and abandonment lead to attachment issues. Feeling like you are constantly looking for sex may be a way of asserting control over that which felt out of control — secure attachments. I spent years disconnecting through sex. I was never satisfied. I often cheated. And those defense mechanisms to avoid getting hurt, avoid abandonment, hurt many people, especially me.
I urge you to get some counseling to deal with this past abuse and abandonment. Even if they have nothing to do with your sexual dissatisfaction, there is a high likelihood that the past trauma is informing your behavior in current relationships, romantic and otherwise. Therapy can also help you sort out some of the questions you raised: Is this relationship-specific? Can you work with your partner on a solution? Is polyamory what would work for you, instead of monogamy?
Communication is key in a partnership, especially when it comes to physical intimacy.
You didn’t mention if you have discussed this with your partner. Maybe she’s feeling unsatisfied, too. At the very least, you need to have a heart to heart about sex. You don’t have to lead with the fact that you’re frustrated. Instead, ask her what you can do to make sex more pleasurable for her.
Another aspect to consider — maybe the kid factor has put a wrench in things temporarily. Kids are draining, physically and emotionally. I know. I have them. We love them, but the energy they zap can make us feel decidedly unsexy. You might need to prioritize or schedule a time when you can reconnect before trying to be sexual.
Try out some affection without sex as the end game.
Sometimes, in a longterm relationship, the pressures around sex can make it feel like a chore rather than a pleasure. Take things back to the early days of dating. Allow yourself to get excited about getting excited about her again. And allow her to build that excitement too, and with you. Some ideas: a massage that doesn’t end in sex, taking a walk together and holding hands, making out without it leading to anything more. These sound basic, but they can help you find that spark again. Because even though your sex drive is high, something is amiss between the two of you. That’s not anyone’s fault, but keep an eye toward solutions rather than hoofing it out the door.
If you find that the two of you are truly in different places with your sex drives or you’re questioning monogamy, please keep that line of communication open. And here’s where a therapist can be of great assistance to the two of you.
You have a child together, and you love her; this is worth trying to fix.
However you decide to proceed, please do so with transparency and honesty about what you want, what you need, and what you feel. And make that effort to find out what she wants and needs. You may be surprised at how far a little open communication can take you.
The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I’m not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share with you the wisdom I’ve gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, dating, friendships, depression, parenting, sex, consent, what I’m watching, what I’m reading, Petalite, or anything at all, use the contact form below or email me: email@example.com. As always, your anonymity is golden. Lastly, I’m so excited to share with you my Ask Erin Self-Care Guide, free when you sign up for my weekly newsletter. xoxo